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'Let's Make Air Pollution' Visible Campaign Aims to Improve UK Air Quality

Image credit: The Standard/Jeremy Selwyn

Deliver Change, a UK-based non-profit focused on sustainable technology projects, launched a campaign this week called “Let’s make air pollution visible,” which aims to bring together businesses, policy makers and local groups to solve the problem of air pollution in the UK.

“Air pollution remains the greatest invisible threat to our health today, as well as to the economic performance of our cities,” said Deliver Change chief executive Jonathan Steel. “People are waking up to the problem, but we need to be able to see the ‘unseeable’.”

Deliver Change is also piloting its air-quality monitoring network, AirSensa, to collect data on air pollution in UK cities. The AirSensa network will initially consist of up to 10,000 air quality sensors across the whole of greater London, all privately sponsored by donors and local businesses.

“We’re building partnerships with organizations that can take action based on that data, which is what the ‘Visible’ initiative is all about,” Steel said.

Businesses already backing the initiative include UK courier company CitySprint.

“Most businesses are already taking some steps to tackle climate change and promote sustainability. But we recognize that our business, like almost any, has an impact on the environment,” said chief executive Patrick Gallagher. “We have a responsibility to find more ways to mitigate the impact of this. To date, there has not been enough reliable air monitoring information to help drive change, so we are proud to support the ‘Visible’ initiative.”

Air pollution is thought to contribute to roughly 30,000 premature deaths each year in the UK, and the World Health Organization estimates the problem costs the economy £53bn each year. According to a Deliver Change video, the UK faced a £300 million fine from the EU for failing to meet air pollution targets by a 2010 deadline. In April the UK Government was ordered by the Supreme Court to improve air-quality standards and reduce the levels of nitrogen dioxide in the atmosphere.

Lower-emission buses could help put a dent in the haze — just this week, London Mayor Boris Johnson announced that two electric double-decker buses will enter service in October, while Bristol’s poo-powered bus began regular service in March.

In 2014, in another part of the world no stranger to debilitating air pollution, IBM announced a 10-year initiative to support China in transforming its national energy systems and protecting the health of its citizens. Dubbed “Green Horizon,” the project sets out to leap beyond current global practices in three areas critical to China’s sustainable growth: air quality management, renewable energy forecasting and energy optimization for industry. One of the first partners to sign on was the Beijing Municipal Government, which has agreed to work with IBM to leverage some of the computer giant’s most advanced technologies — such as cognitive computing, optical sensors and the Internet of things, all based on a Big Data and analytics platform and drawing on IBM’s experience in weather prediction and climate modeling — to develop solutions to help tackle Beijing’s intense air-pollution challenges. 


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